Accelerating Women Leaders Coaching Program Focuses on Career Advancement

Eight women in a Zoom meeting
Accelerating Women Leaders Coaching Program participants check in on Zoom with Manning School Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, top row center, and Graduate Business Programs Coordinator Kathleen Hennessy, middle row center.

By Ed Brennen

Although she had spent the past six years working in global business roles with IBM and Dell Technologies in her native India, Arpitha Divakar knew she had a lot to learn when she moved to the United States in January to begin pursuing a Master of Science in business analytics from the Manning School of Business.

“I was starting all over again, coming back to school and trying to pursue a career,” she says.

When Divakar learned that the Manning School was sponsoring several graduate students to participate in a new 12-week leadership coaching program hosted by Women Accelerators, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the advancement of women, she applied immediately.

“I wanted to learn how to better communicate and improve my time management and self-advocacy,” says Divakar, who was one of six UML students to recently participate in the Accelerating Women Leaders Coaching Program. She was joined by MBA students Amber Emanatian, Sharona Greenough, Parisa Hatami ’21, Julie Simons and Chiara Speziale.

Led by certified executive and leadership development coach Kim Meninger, the cohort of about three dozen women met for one hour a week on Zoom to discuss strategies, mindsets and behaviors needed to advance as leaders within their organizations.

“It was a unique opportunity for me to put myself out there professionally and personally and hear about other women’s experiences,” says Speziale, who works as an attorney in South Florida and is pursuing an online MBA with an international business option.  

For Hatami, the program underscored the cultural differences between the United States and her native Iran, where “women don’t have those opportunities to be a leader and a coach.”

“I learned more strategy — how to improve my confidence and communicate with others,” says Hatami, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Manning School with concentrations in accounting and finance. She now works as a tax examiner for the Internal Revenue Service.

Dean of Business Sandra Richtermeyer says one of her top goals is to work with Graduate Business Programs Coordinator Kathleen Hennessey to provide more co-curricular opportunities like the leadership coaching program for graduate students.

“We have really significant opportunities for undergrads, and we’re excited to have more of these types of opportunities for all grad students,” says Richtermeyer, whose office provided $600 scholarships to cover the program cost for each of the participants.

Divakar, who is working as a data analytics assistant this summer with the university’s division of Graduate, Online and Professional Studies (GPS), says the program was “definitely a good investment.”

“I made some real connections — including with someone who has been in the corporate world for 20 years,” she says. “It’s great for someone like me in the early- to mid-career level to reach out to somebody like that and hear about her experiences. It’s helped me a lot.”